Shining light in ear can brighten your mood in winter

Winter blues, also known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. It is caused by the brain not getting enough daylight which is highly essential to trigger production of serotonin, a hormone important for regulating mood. Now, researchers have come up with a new technique which involves beaming light directly into the brain through the sufferer’s ears.

The new treatment, according to the researchers, is based on the discovery that the brain itself is just as sensitive to daylight as the eyes with “photoreceptive” parts using it to help set our biological clocks, the Daily Telegraph reported.

The researchers have discovered that at least 18 brain regions contain light-sensitive opsin proteins, which are also found in eyes. Working with a company, called Valkee, the team have come up with an iPod-like device for delivering a daily dose of artificial sunshine through a pair of tiny torches hidden in earbud headphones.

A clinical trial in 89 volunteers with SAD found 74 to 79 per cent were totally cured of depressive symptoms, when they used the device for between eight and 12 minutes a day. Explaining the science, Timo Ahopelto, chief executive of Valkee, said: “We have found three different proteins in the brain that are all sensitive to light. “You could say your brain is even more sensitive to light than your eyes, because the concentrations of these photo-receptors are higher in the brain than the eyes.”

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